By Dan Culbert
About 50 stamp enthusiasts attended the Feb. 9 first-day ceremony for the new nondenominated (50¢) United States Flag forever definitive stamp. The 11 a.m. ceremony took place at War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Visitors arriving at the site were greeted by a display of Old Glory waving in the tropical breeze outside the venue.
Inside, attendees were greeted by vendors and representatives of the American Stamp Dealers Association’s Winter Postage Stamp Show, as well as members of the Hollywood (Fla.) Stamp Club.
The stamp show was taking place Feb. 9-11 at the auditorium.
Also on hand were many U.S. Postal Service employees celebrating the initiation of this new postal workhorse.
The Postal Service offered all attendees a patriotic souvenir folder with a pocket that contained the speaker list. The folder was enclosed in a beautiful envelope franked with a booklet version of the new stamp and tied with a black ink first-day cancel.
Each visitor also received a lapel pin reproducing the new stamp design.
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The ceremony was led by ASDA executive director Dana Guyer. She invited the Davie (Fla.) police honor guard to troop the colors, and introduced Taylor McPhee-Johnson of the Postal Service to sing the national anthem.
Guyer next introduced Timothy R. Costello, USPS district manager for South Florida. Costello told the audience that the first full-color commemorative featuring the U.S. flag as a single design was the 1957 Old Glory stamp (Scott 1094).
He added that the colors of the flag signify hardiness and valor (red), purity and innocence (white), and vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue). His father and grandfather were veterans of World War I and World War II, and Costello said he’s always felt that the flag is more than a symbol of the United States: It represents all of the citizens of the country.
Next up was the unveiling ceremony. An 8-foot by 8-foot reproduction of the stamp design was revealed by the ceremony participants and greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Richard A. Asper, the chair and founder of Honor Flight South Florida, spoke next. His organization sends local veterans to Washington, D.C., for visits to war memorials in the nation’s capital.
The group’s Flags of our Heroes program provides the families of veterans with plaques in honor of those who were unable to make the trip.
Asper shared a personal story about the impact of the U.S. flag while he was visiting the nation of Chad in central Africa.
Despite the language barrier, a local child noticed the U.S. flag patch on Asper’s Army shirt, touched it, and said “America.”
Asper thanked the Postal Service for issuing the new Flag stamp, noting it will travel with messages sent all over the world — possibly even to a small village in Chad.
The final speaker was Parker A. Bailey Jr., president of the nearby Hollywood Stamp Club. A lifelong stamp collector and a retired police officer, Bailey has attended many first-day ceremonies, but his favorite was for the 1968 6¢ Law and Order stamp (Scott 1343) issued on his birthday.
Bailey said that one of the most moving experiences in his life was when there were no flags available to purchase after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as the stores had all been emptied of flags by people looking for an example of our national symbol.
The flag represents the people of the United States, not the government, Bailey observed. He added that when he travels abroad, his favorite experience is seeing Old Glory flying on his return to the United States.
At the conclusion of the formal program, attendees gathered at the autograph tables to obtain signatures of the ceremony participants on programs and other souvenirs.
The new U.S. Flag definitive is being sold in double-sided panes of 20 (which the Postal Service refers to as a booklet), and in coils of 100.
The two Postal Service contract printers, Ashton Potter and Banknote Corporation of America, each printed a pane of 20 and a coil.
The Ashton Potter printings of the pane and the coil were available at the ceremony.
By my count there have been more than 60 face-different regular-issue U.S. Flag stamps issued, not counting commemoratives and special stamps.
Collectors who enjoy these patriotic issues can create some combination first-day covers by including different Flag stamps from the past, and can use the new U.S. Flag forever stamp on daily mail as well.